Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sidney and Shanny play a little shinny

Canada’s representative at the World Hockey Championships finished off the preliminary round with a perfect 3-0 record, taking the final of the three games 2-1 over their arch rivals the United States.

For Canada it was someone old and someone new, making the Americans feeling a little blue. Sidney Crosby opened up the scoring for Team Canada with a terrific performance going through three American defenders, before putting the puck into the American goal on a backhand shot that handcuffed the American goaltender Jason Bacashihua.

The Americans had taken an early lead, but helped out by some outstanding goaltending by Alex Auld the Canadians kept up to the US and stayed on their game plan. It was a typical Canada/US match up, some hard hits, lots of play along the boards and lots of shots that rattled off goalposts or just wide of a net.

Canada’s patience paid off at 7:44 of the third, when Brendan Shanahan on a Canadian power play, knocked in a stray puck behind Bacashihua, lifting Canada to the 2-1 lead and on to eventual victory. Shanahan, who was named captain upon his arrival in Latvia, is a reassuring presence on the Canadian bench and proved his value in the scoring parade as well with his all important marker in a tightly contested game against the USA.

The Americans provided the toughest challenge so far in the tournament for the Canadian, but Thursday will open their eyes to a whole new world of fanaticism. Canada plays the host Latvians on Thursday, a situation that will be one tenth hockey game and nine tenths Mardi Gras. The Latvians make a lot of noise when they attend a hockey game, a situation that can be not only distracting but a tad intimidating for a visiting squad.

Dressed up in the Maroon sweaters and honking horns and screaming at the top of their lungs, it will be a whole new experience for the younger players on the Canadian team. It will be interesting to see how they handle the noise and exuberance of the Latvian hockey fan.

Thursday marks the placement phase of the tournament, the next three games are not life and death ones, but wins help place you as high as you can get in the upcoming quarter final rounds. It’s obviously better to win than to lose, so Canada will have to come out of the gate ready to take on whatever the Latvians (and their fans) decide to throw at them.

Best way to help calm down the home folk might be to score a few quick goals. It might help to take out some of the party atmosphere among the expected 10,000 Latvian hockey fanatics expected at Arena Riga on Thursday night. Game time is 1:00 pm (EST) and 10:00 am (PST) on TSN.

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